A poll last month may not have sent shockwaves through the American political system, with the election still 15 months off, but it no doubt got the attention of the White House, as it was in the process of battling the Republican-controlled House on raising the debt ceiling:
Generic Republican takes 8-point lead (47-39) over President Obama in hypothetical race.
Not exactly what the President and his staffers wanted to hear, and it was only more bad news for an Administration that was running against the headwinds of persistent high unemployment rates, a lagging GDP, demands for budget cuts and daily criticism from nearly a dozen GOP candidates who want his job.
How bad is it for Obama? Numbers are fluid, can play tricks and are open to interpretation, but a look at polling data, odds listed at Pinnacle Sports
and elsewhere, and a divided electorate in which large masses of people are huddled inside their own five-yard lines gives a rather strong indication that it’s pretty much a coin flip whether the president and his family will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. beyond January 2013.
Pinnacle Sports is one of the few offshore sites that is offering odds on Obama vs. any candidate the Republicans settle on, and as of Wednesday the President was listed at -129 and the generic GOP candidate at +119.
Pinnacle’s odds are reflective of composite poll numbers posted at Realclearpolitics.com
, which has become the go-to site for political junkies. Merging four polls (Rasmussen, USA Today/ Gallup, Pew Research and NBC News/Wall Street Journal, Obama is given a microscopic 43.5-43.0 edge over the yet-to-be-determined opponent.
There are some problems with the RCP numbers, however, primary among them Rasmussen’s perceived bias toward Republican candidates. In the RCP merge, Rasmussen – which is hired by Fox News to handle some polling – gives the Republican a 6-point (48-42) margin over the president, while the other three polls each give Obama a slight edge (Rasmussen’s numbers were called into question when its Congressional polling in 2010 was way off the mark. In the Hawaii Senate race Rasmussen’s prediction was 40 points different from the final outcome).
At Ireland-based Intrade.com
, an international prediction market, number crunchers are giving the president a 51.5 edge over whatever Republican survives the GOP primary campaign, down a percentage point since earlier in the week. Intrade bettors have nailed things in the recent past – in 2008 the site predicted that Obama would receive 364 electoral votes to John McCain’s 174. The actual count was 365 and 173.
Another problem with evaluating Obama’s position of strength or weakness against a generic candidate is that the generic Republican candidate will not be on the ballot. The chances of anyone besides Rick Perry or Mitt Romney surviving the primaries are just a bit north of nil, and both have their share of warts which Obama’s team will be only so happy to point out.
Perry has entered the race with verbal guns blazing, basically accusing the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, of treason and suggesting that in Texas they have a way of dealing with traitors. Supporters of the Texas governor have either forgotten or, as noted Texan Roger Clemens puts it, “misremembered” Perry’s remark about the possibility of his state seceding from the union. All that plays well with a rabid Republican base that has lurched rightward but could be problematic with independents who actually decide close presidential races.
Romney, meanwhile, has become somewhat of a stealth candidate, perhaps knowing that it’s useless to even try to close the charisma gap between him and Perry, and even between him and long shot Michele Bachmann. Which is probably a good idea for a candidate who has taken every side of every issue and was once dubbed “Multiple Choice Mitt”.
Intrade, by the way, has Perry at 19.7 to win the presidency (maybe about the same as the Steelers getting back to the Super Bowl). Romney’s chances of using the bathroom off the Lincoln bedroom for hair gel applications is at 13.5.
Gingrich? Paul? Santorum? Cain? For them it’s all about keeping their name in the news and maintaining a high-enough profile to demand decent-sized lecture fees.
Obama’s entourage isn’t planning any 2013 inauguration parties just yet. His polling numbers have taken a dive in some key battleground states, most voters believe the country is on the wrong track, and his electoral advantage has whittled away. Conservatives have resented him from almost the day he took office, deriding his presence as Jimmy Carter’s second term. And liberals who financed his 2008 election are puzzled and dismayed by his centrist policies and his tendency to cave to the GOP on key issues, and say he is actually presiding over George W. Bush’s third term.
The killing of Osama bin Laden gave Obama a short-lived boost. Ladbroke’s in England had the president at 1/2 to win re-election in the days after the al Qaeda leader went for a bath. Obama still has an edge, but it’s slipped to 8/13 and Republicans have improved to 6/5.
In politics, a week is an eternity and candidates can self-implode on a dime. Just ask Presidents Dukakis, Hart and Quayle and Gore. But right now the 2012 race is a jump ball.